Leslie Tait MBE retires today after 15 years of training fishermen and other seafarers at the NAFC Marine Centre UHI.
Leslie joined NAFC in 2002 as a lecturer in navigation and seamanship after 34 years as a commercial fisherman, the last 19 as skipper of the local whitefish fishing boat Harmony (LK 63). The extensive knowledge and experience that Leslie had gained as a fisherman made him ideally suited to help train new generations of fishermen and other seafarers.
NAFC's Section Leader for Fisheries & Nautical Training, Mark Fullerton, paid tribute to Leslie, saying that: “Leslie’s experience has made him an extremely versatile Lecturer. He has been able to cover a wide range of subjects from teaching theory in a classroom to practical boat handling and navigation at sea. His patience and a pleasant attitude in the class has led to him being a very respected member of staff at the NAFC.”
Amongst Leslie's last classes have been both a group of new entrants to the fishing industry, embarking on their three-week Introduction to Fishing course, and a group of experienced fishermen studying to sit their Class 2 Fishing Skipper's tickets. Some of the latter commented that Leslie: "is somebody with the actual working experience of what he is teaching us"; "has in-depth practical experience and knowledge of the subjects he teaches and he does it in a way that we can understand"; and "is a good teacher and will be missed."
One of Leslie's former students is Ian Shearer, skipper of the local whitefish fishing boat Courageous (and winner of the Fishing News Young Fisherman of the Year award in 2016), who said that "Leslie was a big help to us from the courses he taught to all the experience and advice he passed on right from when we started out as trainees. He will be a big miss."
Leslie has also helped to operate NAFC's research and survey vessels and contributed to many of the fisheries research projects, surveys and other work undertaken by the Centre, and has played a key role in liaising between the Centre and the fishing industry.
Joint Head of Marine Science & Technology, Dr Chevonne Angus commented that, "Leslie has been a hugely valued and respected member of staff at NAFC and has made an important contribution to the fisheries research that we have conducted over the years. He has been a guiding hand during the development of many research projects so that we remain focused in meeting the needs of industry. We will greatly miss his knowledge and his can-do and hands-on approach."
In addition to his work at NAFC, Leslie has served for the last nine years as Chairman of the Shetland Fishermen's Association, and for eight years before that as Chairman of the Shetland Fish Producer's Organisation. In 2016 he was warded an MBE for his services to the fishing industry.
Leslie said that "I have enjoyed working at NAFC and particularly being able to pass on my knowledge and experience to new generations of fishermen. Working with these fishermen, both as new-entrants and as they progress to their skipper's tickets, gives me great confidence in the future of the fishing industry in Shetland. However, after 15 years of teaching I am looking forward to spending some more time working with my own boat, although I will continue to take a close interest in the local fishing industry and will be staying on as Chairman of the Shetland Fishermen's Association for the time being."